Australian MTB Championships this weekend

This upcoming weekend of March 19-20, the sleepy Victorian town of Eildon will play host to the Australian Mountain bike Championship titles, the talent in the world of Downhill racing being heavily weighted on that corner of the globe.

Last year's winner (for the second consecutive year), 19 year-old Sam Hill (Iron Horse-Mad Catz-SRAM) is in good form at the moment, having taken out the final round of the national series by six seconds only a few days ago at Mt Buller. Last year's runner-up, 22 year-old Jared Graves (Yeti Cycles) placed ninth in the 4-cross World Championships last year. Graves is also the winner of Thredbo round of the National Series. Another contender for the title is 23 year-old Nathan Rennie (Santa Cruz-Troy Lee-SRAM-Red Bull), who placed third last year after being Australia's top mountain biker in 2003. He has shown good consistency in the National series by winning two rounds, but will be keen to make amends after puncturing in the final round.

Other contenders include multiple World Cup winner, 27 year-old Chris Kovarik (Intense-Spy) who, after a bad injury in 2003 is finding his racing form again. Mick Hannah (21) will also want to his worth after breaking his chain in the final run of the 2004 Nationals. Also participating will be Bryn Atkinson and Justin Havukainen, who have recently signed with GT and Iron Horse-Mad Catz respectively. Havukainen holds both U.S. and Australian passports and is presented with a rare opportunity of possibly taking out both the Australian and the U.S. National Champs.

On the cross country racing front, recently crowned National Series winner Dylan Cooper (Kona-Mt Buller Factory Team) is heading into this Saturday's event as the favourite with last years runner-up Chris Jongewaard seemingly the only person capable of upsetting Cooper's comeback. Cooper's illness saw him out of the sport for six years after representing Australia as a Junior in the 1997 World Championships.

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